“Look, there’s Santa” said the five year-old, on a visit to the mall. What’s he doing here? He’s not supposed to be here for ages!?
Yep there he was, the jolly red fella, smiling out at us from the store window. It was pretty depressing. I always feel that way when I see hot cross buns in January and Halloween costumes in August. What is it about chain stores and supermarkets forcing holidays on us.
When it comes to shopping for big holidays, chain stores have the advantage. They can get their stuff out quicker, they have it in abundance and they’re well, convenient. When you’ve got a few kids in tow, it’s easier to get it all in one spot, right? I get it.
But the more ballsy and increasingly efficient the superstores get at rushing out holiday wares and gifts, the bigger the impact on local businesses – the butcher, the baker, the family newsagent and the artisan home-wares store on the corner.
I love a trip to Aldi as much as the next person but this year I’m shopping local, and here’s why. Firstly, it tastes better. Not that I’m knocking the supermarket mince pies. I’m really not. But you can guarantee that something that is baked on-site in the fair hands of your local artisan baker is going to have a flavour you can’t match in the supermarket aisle. The Koreans have a common expression in cooking called ‘son-mat’, which literally means ‘the taste of one’s hands’. In other words, what makes a home-cooked or artisan food taste so amazing is the taste of the chef’s hands.
When you shop local, generally you can be confident about where you’re buying from. Wondering if the baby toy was manufactured in China? Ask the lady who runs the store. Want to know if your Bangalow pork is free range? The butcher will know because he sourced it direct from his trusted supplier. Who pours the wax to make the lime and coconut candle you’ve got your eye on for a stocking filler? Yep, you get it.
The fact is, we need local businesspeople as much as they need us. I would be lost without my local shops for a loaf of sandwich bread in the morning (and maybe a finger bun or two for child bribery). Then I grab my coffee from the local roaster, without it I would still be in bed at midday with children running amok and home-schooling themselves with episodes of Goosebumps. Without local business we’re doomed to a life of supermarket aisle drudgery, walking about with trolleys like robots a la The Truman Show. But I digress.
Essentially, what’s important to remember is that on the Northern Beaches, we are a community and this is someone’s livelihood. Little stores do find it hard to compete, but they work so much harder to keep up.
It’s so important to shop local and support the guys who bring their product to you with love and passion. Local business owners, whether they’re mums selling baby-grows or art or neoprene bags at the local Friday market, or cleaners, plumbers, arborists, gardeners, candle-makers or even your local pest guy, are passionate about what they do because it’s their gig, their baby.
They absolutely won’t ram Christmas down your throat in August – although chances are, they’ll make a deliciously tasty hot cross bun.
Ali Lowe is a journalist and a mum of three. Contact Ali at firstname.lastname@example.org